nicknames (wishes, euphemisms)

Heath Jeffrey schweinehaxen at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 25 19:01:11 UTC 2009

Apparently sarcastic nicknames may express wishes, particularly in childhood, though the names stick. In francophone West Africa, many children are named Vieux or La Vieille in the hope that they will live long lives. Antonyms can function as euphemisms, e.g. North African Arabic (dialectal) 'white' = 'black', 'fire (=hell)' = 'peace, welfare', and perhaps this extends to naming here and there. I remember a very short Australian Aboriginal man named Goliath; don't know whether the name was given in childhood in the hope that he'd add a few inches, or as a euphemistic nickname, or as a joke.


I haven't followed this thread carefully; hopefully someone has mentioned John Haiman's book on sarcasm, Talk is Cheap. Ken Hale's paper on Walbiri (now: Warlpiri) antonymic ritual register (with a clownish flavor), in the Steinberg & Jakobovits eds "Semantics" reader, also comes to mind.
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